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UCP Finance Critic taking heat for sub-letting his subsidized downtown apartment
Published Thursday, August 10, 2017 11:51AM MDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 10, 2017 6:56PM MDT
The United Conservative Party’s finance critic has come under fire; after news surfaced that he had advertised his government-subsidized apartment in downtown Edmonton on AirBnB.
Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt is defending himself online, after telling the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun that there was nothing wrong with him subletting his downtown apartment, while he collected thousands of dollars in housing allowance from taxpayers.
Postmedia reported between January and March, several AirBnB renters reviewed Fildebrandt’s downtown suite, which rents from between $50 and $83 per night. Meanwhile, he collected more than $7,000 for housing.
MLAs who live outside of Edmonton are entitled to a maximum of $23,000 per year for housing.
Fildebrandt released a statement in response to the news Thursday:
“I confirmed that letting out my Edmonton home while it is not being used is compliant with the rules.
“When I want a ride in the city, I use Uber. When I want to communicate with my constituents, I use Facebook and Twitter. When I have an empty house, I use AirBnB.
“Letting out an unused residence is reasonable and a part of the modern sharing economy.”
Fildebrandt tweeted about the matter early Thursday morning.
$2,555 over 8 months letting out my Edmonton home while unused. I won't let smear distract from real issues & donate to the AB debt. #ableg— Derek Fildebrandt (@Dfildebrandt) August 10, 2017
“Let me just say, I have a vehicle that sometimes is parked, it is not my intention to rent it out to Uber,” Premier Rachel Notley said Thursday.
Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark said Fildebrandt should produce all records on the rental of his Edmonton apartment, and should face a penalty if it’s proven he was double dipping.
“It’s the kind of thing that drives people crazy, and rightly so, it feeds the perception that MLAs or all politicians are in it for their own personal gain,” Clark said. “My experience is the vast majority are doing it for the right reasons. It’s these kinds of stories that give us a bad name.”
Finance Minister Joe Ceci also tweeted on the issue late Wednesday evening, saying: “Yes, Derek, it’s the 21st century and reasonable people don’t Airbnb their tax funded apartment for personal profit.”
The interim Alberta director for the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation (CTF) said this was inappropriate.
“We don’t think that this is an appropriate way for MLAs to use public funds that they’re given to cover off their expenses,” Colin Craig said. “It’s not meant for them to profit from personally.”
Before he moved into politics, Fildebrandt was a spokesperson for the CTF.
“I think when you talk to John and Jean taxpayer on the street you’ll probably find that they don’t have a problem reimbursing MLAs for legitimate expenses,” Craig said.
While Fildebrandt claims he was following the rules, a political scientist said it doesn’t matter.
“For someone with his history to claim it’s legal, it’s not an excuse he would have accepted when he was head of the Taxpayer’s Federation or as Finance Critic,” political scientist Lori Williams said. “I think the hypocrisy is a real problem for him.”
CTV News reached out to the Ethics Commissioner on this, who said under the Conflict of Interest Act, she wouldn’t be able to confirm if an investigation was underway. If an MLA was being investigated, a report would be filed with the Speaker.
Greg Clark has asked the speaker to investigate, along with the Legislative Assembly Office. Meanwhile, the CTF believes rules need to be reviewed and updated.
With files from Jonathan Glasgow and Susan Amerongen